Thirteen young musicians of diverse ethnic background ready themselves to play their traditional Chinese instruments on stage in this informative and gracefully illustrated twin debut.
Jiang, a composer, presents upbeat, free-verse poems in the children’s voices about their instruments or their mental states: “When I tune my erhu, / I only need to listen to / Two strings. So easy!” These are paired to sidebar historical and descriptive notes, associated legends and characterizations of the distinctive sounds each instrument makes. Chu’s illustrations are rendered in clearly drawn lines and soft, harmonious colors. They depict each musician in turn playing his or her instrument in rehearsals or solo performances with, often, imagined natural landscapes, animals or mythical beasts floating behind. The preparation culminates in a concert seen in an elevated view of orchestra and audience, followed by a final lineup to take a bow beneath a closing note on characteristics of classical Chinese music.
From the booming paigu to the delicate strings of the ruan, the lutelike pipa and the yangqin, or hammered “butterfly harp,” a lively medley that will expand the musical boundaries of most young audiences. (bibliography) (Informational picture book/poetry. 6-9)